Cascades Academy Independent School PK-12
K/1 Spring Storyline: The Magic School Bus

This week, lucky kindergarten and first graders started their spring Storyline, the last one of the year. Oh, it's going to be such a blast! In this blog post, I'm going to briefly discuss the component of student-guided learning in Storyline, a crucial 'buy-in' factor. In our opinion at Cascades Academy, it is a must for student achievement.

This particular Storyline is based on the Magic School Bus series. If you don't know these books or DVDs, here is a recap: the teacher, Ms. Frizzle, both teaches and drives their magic school bus to transport students into an imaginary world of science. Whatever they are studying - be it the eye socket for a lesson on vision, the soil to watch bugs and earthworms working, or onto a tiny seed as it falls off a flower head to begin its new transition - Ms. Frizzle's students get to shrink, shrink, shrink into a new world!

Behind the scenes, the big-picture learning in this Storyline is around the concepts of cycles in nature. Students are pretending to be young scientists. We may investigate the cycle of plants (like a sunflower), the cycle of insects (like the butterfly and the bee), the cycle of a day, and other earth cycles. However, these are just our guesses as teacher-guides for Storyline; to lay our grown-up opinions somewhat aside and teach within the Storyline scope, my teaching partner and I will listen, watch, adapt, and channel our lessons based on what we observe developing in our students. We will see where the students' enthusiasm takes us.

Your excited young scientist will have lots to share each day, so be sure to ask them what happened today on the magic school bus!

-Mrs. Rice, 1st Grade Teacher

Say Say Oh Playmate

Do you have memories of playing hand clap games as a child? I remember years of singing little rhymes with friends on the schoolyard playground:

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back

Now it's my privilege to introduce this oral tradition to a new generation. My students and I have spent many happy moments laughing, reciting verse, keeping track counting beats, and encouraging each other in little hand games. And it's not only me teaching; we have been learning them from each other, of course.

But, regardless of who is teaching whom, there are a lot of great reasons to enjoy hand-clapping games. As a teacher of the very young, I find it so interesting to see behind the curtain and learn what is happening inside our brains as we take part in this activity. The reach of it is amazing.

While many teachers and parents, too, seem to know instinctively that clapping games provide solid framework for learning, here are some of my favorite well-researched reasons:

Hand-Eye Coordination

Hand clapping games (like catching a football, and making solid contact with the baseball bat and ball for a run around the bases) require us to observe our hand movement to connect with something happening in space and time. It takes practice. And it feels so right when we finally make that connection.

Visual Tracking

When playing hand-clapping games, eyes are continually moving to follow hands. Having strong visual tracking is vital to learning to read and to enjoy reading as a choice activity.

Self-Control, Patience, and Cooperation

Hand clapping games allow children to improve their self-control as they make their hands follow specific clapping patterns, stop clapping in the middle of the rhyme, and change speed during the game – all in a sequence to match their partner. They create the rhythm in unison. This provides the 'faster' child an opportunity to practice being patient as the less-rehearsed child makes strides in speed and ability.

Bilateral Coordination, Crossing the Midline, and Motor Planning

Hand clapping games utilize a variety of motions that enhance all three types of bilateral coordination: performing the same activity with both sides of the body as in pushing a rolling pin, or performing alternating movements such as skipping, or performing a different movement with each side of the body such as holding a sheet of paper and cutting it with scissors.

Rhythm, Beat, Patterns, and Sequencing

Set to a specific rhythm and beat, these games provide a wonderful opportunity to link body memory into mathematical skill sets without even realizing it – Oh, and how often is a teacher lucky enough to provide a math opportunity which results in people laughing out loud in delight?

Auditory Development

Memorizing and saying the rhyme, hearing the beat, matching the clap to the rhyme, and saying the rhyme in cadence provides top-level opportunities for listening. And isn't it true that a big part of being a successful student, at all levels, elementary to college, involves listening?

Making Eye Contact

Playing hand-clapping games provides opportunities to practice making eye contact with someone. This is a fun and non-threatening situation. To make the game even better, players need to watch, look, and 'read' a partner's face.

For a little giggle, why not stop in the first grade room and join us in some hand clapping games? I promise you'll leave with smile on your face!

-Mrs. Rice, 1st Grade Teacher

Recent Blog Posts